As many of you will know, the romance community is mourning the loss of our wonderful, talented Sandra Hyatt. Sandra died suddenly after taking ill during the Romance Writers of New Zealand annual conference. Over at the LoveCats blog today, several of us have posted tributes to Sandra - if you would like to read them, or share your thoughts, that would be lovely.
I had been at the conference and had the privilege of spending a wonderful hour late on Friday night with Sandra and some of her closest friends. I still can't believe she took ill so quickly from then.
On Sunday I was at the airport, my boarding call being announced when I got the call from another friend to say that Sandra had passed on. Almost the last to board the plane, with no tissues in hand to mop the streams, the other passengers averting their eyes, I was a mess.
And I felt sorry for the young woman I was seated next to - I think most of us are uncomfortable with raw emotion in public places. Inside you feel pained for the person, but there's often not a lot you can do. You don't know what to say.
But this young woman was amazing. She didn't bury her head in a magazine, she didn't look away, instead she looked at me, with open body language and a calm expression. I apologised and made a brief explanation. And she waited.
So I ended up talking. She asked easy, gentle, interested questions. We talked that entire flight - I told her about Sandra. We shared earthquake stories. She told me about her life, her partner, her work. I got to a point where I could breathe again. I mopped up - frequently. I even laughed. She got me through a really rough hour. And I am so grateful to her. She was so very kind.
Somewhere in Christchurch there's a lovely young woman named Bianca. To her, I say thank you.
And my sincerest condolences to Sandra's family and those closest to her. She was a wonderful woman who is greatly missed.